Tricks and Recipes for Make-Ahead Meals

Make-ahead meals let you serve home-cooked dishes even on the most hectic day.

By Elaine Magee, MPH, RD
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Feature

Reviewed By Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD/LD

Action-packed weeknights, overscheduled weekends, days when you have too much to do before guests come over or before you go to someone else's house with a dish in hand -- there are plenty of times when "make-ahead" meals can come to the rescue.

Make-ahead meals put you in control of your schedule. You do the preparation when you have some extra time, then you're rewarded with a quick, home-cooked meal when things get hectic later in the day, week, or month.

Since dinnertime is often a hectic time for families, Janice Bissex, RD, author of The Mom's Guide to Meal Makeovers, says it can really help for moms or dads to make all or part of the meal in advance.

"Prepping ingredients to toss together at the last minute or assembling the full meal for reheating can make the dinner hour more relaxed and manageable," Bissex tells WebMD in an email interview.

There are several ways to make your meals ahead of time. You can assemble them early and keep in the refrigerator until you're ready to pop them in the oven. Or you can completely cook your meal, freeze or refrigerate it, then just warm it up at mealtime. Some make-ahead meals don't even require baking -- like main-dish green salads or pasta salads.

Paulette Mitchell, author of 13 cookbooks including A Beautiful Bowl of Soup, says her favorite strategy for make-ahead meals is to plan a soup and salad menu.